The best oatmeal…EVER

I love oatmeal, with provisions. While I will sometimes tolerate oatmeal made from regular or thick cut rolled oats (I would rather eat wallpaper paste than let a spoonful of instant oatmeal past my lips), I swoon for a good bowl of steel-cut oats.

The recipe I’ve been using for years came from an issue of Cook’s Illustrated. I make it so often that I haven’t looked at the recipe in forever, but here is the basic recipe, from memory:

Awesome Oatmeal
Serves 4
1 cup steel cut oats
1 tablespoon butter
3 cups water
1 cup milk (preferably whole)
1/2 tsp salt

  1. Combine water and milk in heavy-bottomed saucepan/saucepot; bring to a simmer over medium heat.
  2. Meanwhile, heat butter in another pan over medium heat. When butter is melted and just starting to bubble, add oats and stir with a wooden spoon to coat the oats with buttery goodness. Continue stirring frequently for about two minutes, or until oats begin to smell a bit caramelly/butterscotchy.
  3. Remove oats from heat if the water/milk mixture is not yet simmering. When it is simmering, add the oats and give a good stir to combine. Turn the heat down to low or medium low (depending on your stove), so that the oatmeal is at a nice simmer. Set your timer for 20 minutes, then do some dishes, or something.
  4. When the timer goes off, you need to pay attention. Add the 1/2 teaspoon of salt, then stir frequently, using the handle end of the wooden spoon. Do this for 10 minutes. Between stirs, you can start adding “extras” (see below).
  5. When the 10 minutes are up, remove the pan from the heat and let it sit, without stirring, for 5 minutes. Scoop into bowls, top with any desired toppings, and enjoy!

This is a basic recipe, a blank canvas for so much breakfast artistry! I do ask that you not skip the buttery pan-toasting of the oats…it really adds something (in fact, this was the recipe element that the obsessive folks in the Cook’s Illustrated test kitchen specifically pointed out “made” this recipe what it is).

I always add cinnamon and vanilla extract to the oatmeal while it’s in the 10-minute frequent stirring phase. If I’m using dried fruit, I also like to add it at this time so it plumps up a bit. I usually wait to add fresh fruit as a topper, but it can be nice to stir in a chopped ripe banana during that 10 minutes, too. If I’m adding canned pumpkin, that’s also when I stir it in.

My typical toppers include some variety of coarsely chopped nuts, some diced fruit, more cinnamon, flaxseed and shredded coconut. Other recent toppings have include cranberry sauce, granola and unsweetened applesauce.

This weekend’s concoction included cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla, a tablespoon of chia seed, one diced banana and about 1/2 cup of canned pumpkin, stirred in during the final 10 minutes of cooking. In the bowl, I topped it with half a diced pear, chopped pecans, more cinnamon and some coconut. Autumn harvest yum!